A fond farewell to 2015

Looking back over 2015 there have been massive highs and lows. The sudden loss of my big Sister Patricia in March, then graduating with a  First Class Hons Degree in Nutrition and Health in August, make this a very memorable year for me.


Since graduating my favourite memory is going back to Edge Hill University to attend the Association for Nutrition Regional Network meeting focusing on ‘Nutrition through the Life Stages’.  It was a great day full of engaging presentations from start to finish. It was also great to meet up with everyone and put names to faces.  This was especially useful as I had helped AfN Regional Rep North West Aliya Porter prepare the speakers profiles for the event so felt like I knew the speakers already!


Listening to another former Edge Hill Student ‘Emily Sturgess’ delivering her presentation on ‘Working in Industry’ was brilliant, it was really lovely seeing her doing so well.

Looking forward to 2016 I’m planning a  whole new career in nutrition and planning to study for a Masters, can’t wait to get started!

I’m off to party now. Happy new year everyone. X




Even though my degree studies have finished I still spend hours reading nutrition and health related journal articles, I just can’t get enough of them! 

beerEveryday new ones are published, revealing the details of primary research and literature reviews on complex, weird and wonderful topics.  As a student, I used these peer reviewed journal articles to help prove and disprove various arguments, and now I’m reading them just for fun!

What I’d like to do is share my findings with you here on my blog. I’ll try not to blind you with science or quote chapter and verse but will report research that interests me, hopefully you will find it interesting too.

Here’s what I’ve been reading today:

  • Excessive alcohol use is a major public health concern and finding ways to cut consumption is a popular area of research.
  • In one study alcohol consumption of beer reduced when straight glasses were used instead of curved glasses.
  • Takings reduced by 24% in 3 pubs when alcohol was served in straight glasses compared to the weekends when alcohol was served in curved glasses.
  • A small number of patrons were unhappy with the new glassware and requested their normal glass.
  • This study explored how people’s behaviour and the choices they make can be influenced at population level – known as ‘choice architecture interventions’.
  • Another example of this is applying health warning labels to alcoholic beverages. In the USA this did result in greater awareness of alcohol-related harm, however the impact on drinking behaviour was minimal.
  • It’s not clear why straight glasses reduced consumption and this was only a small study so further research is called for.

Personally my alcohol consumption reduces when I’m forced to drink out of a plastic glass, it just feels wrong!  Perhaps I should conduct my own study.


Troy, D, M.,  Maynard, O, M., Hickman, M., Attwood, A, S. & Munafò, M,R  (2015) Effect of glass shape on alcohol consumption in a naturalistic setting: a feasibility study

Support local farmers and reap the benefits!

A recent study found those shopping at farmers’ markets were more likely to consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.


I certainly enjoyed my trip to Pollensa Market last week with a fabulous rainbow of fruit and vegetables available to ‘try before you buy‘, not something likely to catch on here in UK supermarkets, I think!


The smell was divine and every surface was covered with local produce bursting with goodness. I only had to look at what was on offer and I felt more energised and healthier, but I guess that’s the nutritionist in me.


Others may have seen ingredients for a recipe set out before them or a whole load of unnecessary chopping and peeling, me on the other hand saw antioxidants, beta-carotene, carotenoids, vitamins and essential fatty acids, with all sorts of fabulous health benefits.


Let’s support our local farmers and get healthier at the same time.

If you’ve never visited a farmers market, seek one out, you are in for a real treat.


Val x


Reference: Jilcott Pitts, S.B., Wu, Q., McGuirt, J.T., Crawford, T.W. et al. Associations between access to farmers’ markets and supermarkets, shopping patterns, fruit and vegetable consumption and health indicators among women of reproductive age in eastern North Carolina, USA. Public Health Nutrition16.11 (Nov 2013): 1944-52.

Doughnuts and diabetes – front page news!

Sensational headlines about the nations health, like those on the front page of the Daily Mail and Daily Express on Monday, are designed to sell newspapers.  Unfortunately what they also do is provide the public with misinformation and show little respect for people living with challenging health conditions such as Diabetes and Coeliac Disease.


Claiming that doughnuts, pizzas and burgers are freely available on the NHS conjures up images that couldn’t be further from the truth. Gluten free bread, flour and low protein foods are prescribed, but in limited amounts and only when absolutely necessary for the health and well being of patients.

Coeliac UK have refuted claims that the Health Service spent £116m on gluten free prescriptions. In reality it was less than a quarter of that at £26.8 million in 2014 equating to an annual cost of £180 per diagnosed patient. Said to be one of the cheapest treatments for long term health conditions in the NHS.

Sarah Sleet the Chief Executive of Coeliac UK is calling for the Daily Mail to correct the misinformation presented today along with the Mirror, Times, Telegraph and Express.

I’m all for raising awareness of the importance of nutrition and health, but articles like this just muddy the water, create bad feeling and cause harm to vulnerable people.

I wonder what the headlines will be on Tuesday!


Last day as a student….

Tomorrow I graduate from Edge Hill University with a first class honours degree in Nutrition and Health, so that makes today officially my last day as a student.  Looking back over the last 3 years I’ve loved the subject, the lectures, the library, the research, the people, come to think of it everything!

My special highlights were:

  • Winning a Student Enterprise Award for our Nutri-juice Health Promotion
  • Spending every spare minute reading about nutrition.
  • Job shadowing at Public Health England and Food Standards Agency
  • Attending great nutrition events e.g. Food Matters Live` & British Dietetic Association Research Symposium
  • Volunteering with Skelmersdale Community Food Initiative – such a great bunch of people.
  • Being awarded an IT Scholarship by one of my heroes Edge Hill Chancellor ‘Tanya Byron’
  • Getting to be a lab rat, white coat, safety glasses, bunsen burners, the lot!
  • Morning Marathon training on the Uni running track – loved that they put the floodlights on for me a stupid o’clock.
  • The feeling when I handed in a copy of my Dissertation: ‘An exploration of peoples knowledge of the link between diet and disease’

Below are some photos of my time at Edge Hill.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s graduation ceremony and then getting back to blogging about life after Uni.

Val x

Hayley, Greg and Val ICT & Enterprise Excellence Award Winners

Hayley, Greg and Val ICT & Enterprise Excellence Award Winners December 2014

Photo on 07-07-2015 at 19.41 - Version 2

Results day July 2015


Nutri-juice health promotion – Gemma, Kay, Val & Rhian 22.1.2014

Lab work

Lab work

Sue & Val - Looking forward to the event

Sue & Val – Lab rats


Association for Nutrition Event – Atherosclerosis model 2012


Student Excellence Awards 2014

3rd Year Edge Hill Nutrition Students at the Association for Nutrition Regional Meeting

3rd Year Edge Hill Nutrition Students at the Association for Nutrition Regional Meeting 


Skelmersdale Community Food Initiative

photo 1


Handing in our dissertations



Food Sustainability Event hosted by Edge Hill

Health Promotion Poster

Health Promotion Poster


Edge Hill – University of the Year 2015


Colour Therapy Session – loved it!

I’m very busy at the moment working on my primary research dissertation “an exploration of people’s level of knowledge of the link between diet and disease”.  I’ve got to write 8,000 words and still have 3 other assignments to finish by the end of May. Each year we have been expected to include more critical analysis and rather than regurgitate what we’ve read, we need to look across a broad body of evidence and draw conclusions. I’ve loved being a student and am determined to finish on a high, I put hours of work into my recent ‘therapeutic approach to nutrition’ assignment and was delighted to get a mark of 80%. They say a change is as good as a rest and attending the Colour Therapy Session at Skelmersdale Community Food Initiative where I volunteer, gave me a real boost.  I didn’t know anything about colour therapy before, but what I know now is that it’s nothing to do with what colours suit me. 

Denise - Getting ready to practice kinesiology

Denise – Getting ready to practice kinesiology

Denise delivered the session and it was a delight from the start, everyone on the course was lovely and it was a really nice way to spend a couple of hours. We started by doing a Karmagraph to discover our special colour influence. That’s a calculation based on your date of birth – Mine was: “GOLD” The Counsellor

  • Which  supposedly makes me an unpaid counsellor with good listening skills and able to give good advice – perfect for a student nutritionist / dietitian!  Apparently I also have the need to visit different cultures and am knowledgeable and have natural wisdom that I’ve developed over many lifetimes! I like the sound of that!

We then moved on to Kinesiology which is a therapy used to assesses health and wellbeing. Stress resistance is used to detect any physique, chemistry, nutrition or emotional imbalances – all fascinating stuff. The group then went ‘dowsing for colours’ – difficult to explain but great fun. We talked about chakra’s and also did a bit of colouring – very therapeutic in its self.

  • I found I was attracted to Red so I need to replenish my energy and quieten my system and Green which calls for me to spend more time having fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session and would definitely recommend it to others. Denise is great at putting people at ease and her enthusiasm for the subject rubbed off on us all. We all left wanting to know more. Val X Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 22.39.51

Back to Uni for my final year..

Just when I thought my degree course couldn’t get any better I find myself donning a lab coat and lighting a bunsen burner, to  determine the slip point of various fats (that’s the temperature at which they melt). It was brilliant! 


Lab work

Val – enjoying the lab work 

We conducted experiments testing butter, sunflower oil, lard and coconut oil, to establish their properties and how food manufacturers conduct similar tests when developing new products and for quality control.

Sue - The Bunsen Burner Queen

Sue – The Bunsen Burner Queen

I’m so happy to be back at University for my final year, which I think is going to fly by.

My modules this year are:

  • Therapeutic approaches to nutrition.
  • Public Health Nutrition.
  • Wider determinants of overweight and obesity.
  • Personal career development.
  • Biological Sciences / lab work.

Since coming back to Uni I’ve also had two fascinating lectures in Public Health Nutrition which in a nut shell is concerned with: preventing disease, promoting health and prolonging life.

In Therapeutic Approaches to Nutrition  lecture 1, we identified a range of food related health issues,  explored the role of nutritionists and dietitians and discussed the importance of  building good therapeutic relationships. Lecture 2 covered the stages of change transtheoretical model and motivational interviewing, which included some practise interviews where we matched intervention to the relevant stage of change.

We also had a lecture outlining what is required of us with our Dissertation and a Personal Career Development lecture with some fascinating insights in to the job application process.

A great start to my final year.


Snack attack!

I’m working full time over the summer and I’m amazed at the amount of unhealthy eating that goes on in my office. There is food everywhere! Three sandwich vans visit the office before 10:30am and a favourite breakfast is the sausage and egg sandwich.

The breakfast favourite: Sausage and egg sarnie

The breakfast favourite: Sausage and egg 

We have well stocked vending machines, charity and emergency sweets on reception, a range of foreign sweets brought back from holidays and cakes and biscuits brought in because it’s somebody’s birthday, or leaving present. I have also noticed that on Friday’s things go in to overdrive and if you don’t have a treat you feel decidedly left out. Now I’m no angel and I do enjoy the odd packet of beef crisps and once I get a taste for chocolate I always want more, but I don’t have these snacks day in day out.

Research has found that people are eating more frequently, with time intervals between meals having reduced by an hour since 1977. This snacking is not thought to be linked to hunger and satiety but reflects ‘mindless’ or ‘recreational’ eating where people are influenced to eat by a variety of situational and external cues such as food availability, time of day and other people eating.

In my office the tannoy announcements heralding the arrival of food has to some people the same effect as the ringing bell to Pavlov’s salivating dogs.

Snacking is a habit to many people and studies confirm that the more frequently a behaviour is performed, the more likely it is to become habitual.

I work with lots of lovely people but as a nutrition student it’s not easy to watch them eating rubbish because I’m well aware of the link between diet and disease. Next year I’m planning to do primary research for my dissertation on peoples knowledge of the link between diet and disease, but in the meantime perhaps I should invent a vending machine that dispenses just water, fruit, raw veg, nuts and seeds. I wonder how that would go down in my office!

Kong, A. et al (2011) Associations between snacking and weight loss and nutrient intake among post menopausal overweight to obese women in a dietary weight loss intervention. Journal of the American a Dietetic Association.

Aukje, A et al (2012) The power of habits: Unhealthy snacking behaviour is primarily predicted by habit strength. British Journal of Health Psychology 17, 758-770.


Mediterranean Diet

Having spent the last few months with my head buried in books and journal articles, it’s great to get a break and this week I’m doing it in style on the beautiful island of Crete with its cobalt blue sea, rugged mountain back drop, and sun filled sky.



The food here is sensational and the traditional Cretan diet of the 1960’s is said to be one of the healthiest with the lowest coronary heart disease and cancer mortality rates.

The Cretan diet includes fresh fruit, vegetables, oily fish, olives, olive oil, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, walnuts, dried figs, beans, melon, chickpeas, cherries, honey, whole meal bread and red wine. This diet is high in fibre, effective at reducing cholesterol, is full of antioxidants and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. The impressive results from studies in to the Cretan diet and its positive role in disease prevention and health promotion is also thought to be due in part to periodic abstinence from meat, fish, dairy, eggs and cheese prescribed by the Greek Orthodox Church.

It seems that the Mediterranean Diet is a topical issue across a range of media:

  • In Dec 2013 lead doctors from G8 countries wrote to the UK Health Secretary and Prime Minister asking them to invest in an education programme on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for children in schools and the wider adult population. Dr Simon Pool led the initiative and you can find out more about his work on his website http://www.tasteofthemed.com
  • For a bit of light reading on the subject check out the June 2014 issue of Good Housekeeping which has an article outlining how you can get the health benefits of the Mediterranean style diet using British ingredients. It gives tips like eating red cabbage instead of aubergine as they both contain folic acid, fibre and pigments called anthocyanins that protect against heart disease.
  • The British Dietetic Association also has a link to an event being run by the University of Hertfordshire in October. The study day is aimed at dietitians / nutritionists and is designed to give practical strategies for implementing a Mediterranean diet in dietetics practice, such as meal planning and demonstrations of cooking skills. The day also provides updates on recent advances in scientific understanding of the Mediterranean diet and epidemiological evidence for its health benefits (cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases). The teaching team includes the authors of “The Mediterranean Diet: Health and Science”, Dr Hoffman and Dr Gerber, a leading lecturer in dietetics and a local GP.

I’ve just ordered theThe Mediterranean Diet: Health and Science” book and will be booking my place on the Mediterranean diet event in October.  In the mean time I’m going to relax and enjoy the delicious Cretan food and also the odd glass of red wine. Cheers!


Kafatos, A., Verhagen, H., Moschandreas, J., Apostolaki, I. & Johannes J M Van Westerop (2000) ‘Mediterranean diet of Crete: Foods and nutrient content’ American Dietetic Association. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 100 (12) pp. 1487-93